TiVo Bolt OTA

Last updated date: October 11, 2019

DWYM Score

8.0

TiVo Bolt OTA

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We looked at the top DVRs and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best DVR you should buy.

Editor's Note November 17, 2020:
Checkout The Best DVR for a detailed review of all the top dvrs.

Overall Take

For those who want their shows in HD, the TiVo Bolt OTA is a solid contender. It also allows you to stream shows from Netflix and similar services, with a search function that works across both streaming and live TV content. Perks like voice control and a commercial skip mode are a boon for busy viewers.


In our analysis of 55 expert reviews, the TiVo TiVo Bolt OTA placed 2nd when we looked at the top 8 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

Catch live TV, like comedies, dramas, award shows, sports, local news and more, all broadcast for free, with TiVo BOLT OTA for antenna and an HD antenna (sold separately). It’s the all-in-one live, recorded and streaming TV device that makes the most of your TV experience. Access the popular apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube and more.2 Skip entire commercial breaks with a single tap.3 And search across channels, recordings and apps to find what you’re looking for, faster. And because there’s no cable TV subscription required, you could save more than $800 over three years.1 Say goodbye to cable TV. Say hello to a better way to watch.

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

8.3
11 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

7.4
3,505 user reviews

What experts liked

Feature rich update on the Roamio line with 4K capability, recording capacity up to 150 hours,commercial skip mode, and optional out of home streaming.
- BestReviews
The TiVo Bolt OTA offers a plethora of services including streaming apps with 4K support, in-home streaming and voice search. The price per month is a lot more affordable than the full-fat version of the Bolt, and lifetime service brings the total cost to $500.
- CNET
Helpful voice controls with the Vox remote and Alexa integration
- TechHive
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Clearly the biggest reason to buy the Bolt OTA is its 4K and HDR chops.
- Digital Trends
November 12, 2018 | Full review
The software is all the same as the Bolt Vox, with support for TiVo’s voice remote, Alexa integration, and all the same streaming services that TiVo offers.
- The Verge
September 27, 2018 | Full review
The TiVo Bolt has an efficient search function that lets you search for a show in multiple content sources at once.
- Top Ten Reviews
One thing that videophiles should love about the Bolt OTA is that over-the-air HDTV channels typically arrive at a resolution closer to the 19.2 megabits-per-second ideal than what's delivered by compression-giddy cable and satellite operators.
- Sound And Vision
September 27, 2018 | Full review
With the TiVo BOLT not only will you be able to record your antenna and stream it outside of your house, but you will also be able to stream 4K content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.
- Cord Cutter News
October 11, 2018 | Full review
Bolt OTA is a 1080p recorder, its upgraded internals can support streamed content at 4K resolution from a variety of built-in streaming services and apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, YouTube, Vudu, and Epix.
- Audioholics
February 25, 2019 | Full review
In terms of specs, the TiVo Bolt OTA boasts four antenna tuners and a terabyte of storage space. The 1 TB hard drive is a beautiful thing, and improves on the competition: the Tablo Quad OTA DVR asks users to provide their own storage.
- Cord Cutting
February 13, 2019 | Full review
Where the Bolt shines brightest is in its interface. The TiVo Bolts makes it incredibly easy to search for new content across streaming services and OTA television. You can search for shows by genre, actor, director, etc… And all of your content is sorted by title, not by source.
- Kill The Cable Bill
May 3, 2016 | Full review

What experts didn't like

Whole home capability requires additional purchase of a TiVo mini. Set up can take a few hours.
- BestReviews
There is no access to live TV streaming services which would help bolster the OTA options. The functionality is skewed heavily in favor of streaming over the DVR.
- CNET
Pricier than other options, especially for whole-home viewing.
- TechHive
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Roamio OTA owners need not apply
- Digital Trends
November 12, 2018 | Full review
It can’t access satellite content.
- Top Ten Reviews
Despite its generous built-in storage (which differentiates TiVo from a smart TV or plug-in media receiver), the Bolt OTA does not enable the downloading of online videos or the saving of program streams.
- Sound And Vision
September 27, 2018 | Full review
The bad news. The TiVo Bolt OTA costs a substantial $250, and that doesn’t include TiVo’s service fees, which add $7 per month, or $70 per year, depending on how you choose to be billed.
- Audioholics
February 25, 2019 | Full review
Throw in the high price point of this device, and it's hard to recommend it.
- Cord Cutting
February 13, 2019 | Full review
With online streaming capabilities, you can download streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube. No word on whether or not it will support Sling TV in the future.
- Kill The Cable Bill
May 3, 2016 | Full review

Our Expert Consultant

Patrick Ward 
Editor-in-chief of High Speed Experts

Patrick Ward is the editor-in-chief of High Speed Experts, a broadband connectivity-, search engine- and IT-industry education blog that empowers consumers by open-sourcing information about tech services. He earned his bachelor’s degree in commerce with an emphasis on communications at the University of Sydney. His expertise spans the digital, emerging tech and telecommunications fields.

Overall Product Rankings

TiVo Bolt OTA

2. TiVo Bolt OTA

Overall Score: 8.0
Amazon Fire TV Recast

3. Amazon Fire TV Recast

Overall Score: 7.8
Tablo Dual LITE OTA DVR

4. Tablo Dual LITE OTA DVR

Overall Score: 7.5
TiVo BOLT VOX 3TB

6. TiVo BOLT VOX 3TB

Overall Score: 7.5
TiVo BOLT VOX 500 GB

7. TiVo BOLT VOX 500 GB

Overall Score: 7.3
AVerMedia EZRecorder

8. AVerMedia EZRecorder

Overall Score: 6.7

An Overview On DVRs

Back in the old days of cable TV — and by “old days,” we mean the mid-2000s — the role of the DVR was simple. The name stood for digital video recorder, and that’s what it did. It recorded video from your cable television to an internal storage device, allowing you to pause, rewind or record live television.

When it was first introduced, this was revolutionary. You could skip commercials! Pause for bathroom breaks! Make that must-see show wait until you were good and ready! The convenience was so great that cable and satellite providers started providing DVR service as part of their basic subscription, and most still do. People tend to use their provider’s service because it’s hassle-free and easily compatible.

These days, basic DVR features can seem quaint for cord-cutters who rely primarily on streaming services for their entertainment. But the pendulum has begun to swing back, as streaming subscriptions grow pricier and people are starting to realize that OTA (over the air) TV is still free for those with a decent antenna. But how do we make those scheduled network shows fit our busy lifestyle? Re-enter the stand-alone DVR.

“It’s worth investigating higher quality DVRs than the one you get with your cable box, since the better quality and user experience can make the additional investment worth it,” Patrick Ward, editor-in-chief of the IT education blog High Speed Experts, says.

But where should you start?

“Before purchasing your DVR, check the speed of your internet service,” Ward advises. “DVRs are increasingly using internet bandwidth, particularly when it comes to streaming.” He suggests making sure you have service that offers speeds of at least 200 megabits per second (Mbps) — 1000 Mbps is even better — if you regularly stream content, use an ultra-HD TV such as a 4K TV and have multiple devices plugged in at once.

Then, look at the options you want.

“If you have an HD TV, it is worth investing in a DVR that can also record in HD or your recorded shows’ picture quality will decrease on playback,” Ward says.

Far from sitting idle, TiVo and the other pioneers of DVR technology have been incorporating new technology to make their services relevant even to those with a streaming package. Today, DVRs offer all the modern conveniences you expect. TiVo’s Bolt OTA, for instance, presents itself as an all-in-one media device, allowing you to grab and record shows from your antenna but also giving access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. You can search for shows across both live TV and applications, issue voice commands through either the remote or Amazon’s Alexa assistant and even skip commercials.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider other options, such as two-tuner operation.

“Standard DVRs can only record a show or watch a show, not both,” says Ward. “With a two-tuner operation, you can watch a show while recording an entirely different show — useful if you have an overlap of favorite shows on at the same time slot.”

Other DVRs are somewhat more stripped down, but the main thing to remember is that you won’t be able to do much with a DVR alone. Nearly all of them require a TV antenna to access OTA content, sold separately. And if you want that content to be in HD, you’ll need an HD antenna. For Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, you’ll also need an Amazon Fire player or Echo Show with an active account.

How they connect to your TV also differs. Most run connections to your antenna, then deliver shows to your TV through an HDMI or another cable. The Tablo 4-Tuner DVR is a bit of an outlier, running through your wireless router which then delivers content to your TV.

There may also be a subscription cost to figure in, ranging from a few dollars a month to nothing at all. Considering that some DVRs can even let you record and watch from tablets or phones while you’re away from home, it can be a great option for viewers who don’t want to miss a thing.

The DVR Buying Guide

  • The first thing to do when buying a DVR is to get those glasses ready, because you’ll want to read the fine print. You’ll need an antenna to access the live shows for your DVR, and it’s best to buy the antenna first so you know what stations you can reliably pick up at your location. But that might not be all: Some DVRs will also require a subscription to start up. Those are typically the ones that allow you to access streaming services, so it can still be a great option for those that don’t already have it.
  • Most DVRs can accommodate more than one TV these days, which is great for big families. You can be watching the game in the living room while the kids record cartoons in the den, for example. Some might even be able to stream your OTA content to tablets or other devices for viewing while you’re on the go. All good perks, but make sure you’ve got enough tuners to handle all that business. In a nutshell, the amount of tuners you’ve got usually determines the amount of different shows you can watch or record simultaneously. A family using a four-tuner DVR would be able to watch two shows on separate TVs while recording two shows for later, for example.
  • Then there’s storage. If you like to record a lot of shows, be aware there’s a limit. Many DVRs will come with a certain amount of internal storage; others might require you to buy hard drives or other expansions to the memory. Most will let you know the storage capacity in hours, but a rule of thumb is that one hour of HD programming will usually take up 6 GB.
  • What are the bells and whistles on your DVR? Do your research, because some features might be worth the price alone. Others, you might already have or need other devices to fully take advantage of. For instance, the TiVo Bolt OTA’s streaming capabilities: You might already be watching Netflix or Amazon shows through a smart TV or other interface, but perhaps it’s worth it to have all those shows plus OTA TV on a single menu.
  • Got an Ultra 4K TV? Make sure that not only your DVR supports that kind of resolution, but your antenna does as well. Essentially, your picture will only look as good as the weakest device you’re using to access it. In the case of the Tablo 4-Tuner, you’ll be watching shows through your internet router, so make sure your bandwidth is up to the task.
  • Finally, setup can be a headache when you’re dealing with this many devices. Don’t be afraid to call support for connection help. Pro tip: While it’s best to set up your antenna first, make sure that its ideal location is one that the DVR’s cords can reach.